Today, I interview Anthony Kuo whose life journey took him from being tightly wound and trapped in the corporate world to breaking free and following his heart’s desire. He joins us today to share his transformative experiences and how he has now dedicated his life to helping others find their own path to fulfillment.
Anthony Kuo’s early life was shaped by the weight of immigrant family expectations and a musical background, where he excelled as a musician, performing at prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall. However, despite his success, he realized that music did not bring him true joy. This realization ignited a quest to discover his authentic self and find a career aligned with his passions and interests.
Through various corporate experiences, Anthony embarked on a journey of self-discovery, facing burnout and discontent along the way. Each challenge led him to explore new career paths until he took a courageous leap and became a career satisfaction coach, helping others find fulfillment.
Today, Anthony empowers individuals to pursue fulfilling careers by embracing their true selves. His coaching enables clients to recognize their unique talents and interests, empowering them to make authentic career decisions, resulting in long-lasting satisfaction and success.
If you’re feeling stuck or uncertain about your career, Anthony Kuo’s story will deeply resonate with you. Don’t miss the impactful episode where he shares valuable insights on unlocking your potential and creating a purpose-driven career and life. Tune in and be inspired to find your voice, overcome obstacles, and create the life you’ve always envisioned.
Anthony Kuo is a Career Satisfaction Coach, Executive Coach, and Master NLP Practitioner. He empowers others to find their voice and thrive in their careers.
He guides his clients through a journey of self-discovery, encouraging them to be intensely curious about their true selves. By helping them say “no” to unsuitable situations and articulating their “yes,” Anthony enables individuals to align their careers with their genuine aspirations.
He emphasizes that self-knowledge and authentic expression are essential for meaningful success, and his coaching process transcends the typical career strategies to create a deeper connection between individuals and their professional paths. Through his impactful work, Anthony Kuo continues to inspire others to listen to their inner voices and act upon their own authentic desires.
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #113 Anthony Kuo
“From Corporate Traps to Career Satisfaction”
(0:35) Doreen Downing
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m here today with one of my most beautiful, deepest relationship with Anthony Kuo. He is somebody I met way before Covid and we started to talk and he lived on the east coast, came out and had some trainings on the west coast. This is the first time we’ve seen each other in a long, long while.
So I feel really deeply moved to be able to present who he is and what he does. And of course, always that deep internal history where that challenge to be who he is today first started. Hello Anthony.
(1:20) Anthony Kuo
Hi Doreen. It’s so wonderful to be here and what a journey it’s been, right?
(1:25) Doreen Downing
Yes. Both the journey since we met each other, obviously with the pandemic, but just you and learning about you and your journey from being somebody who’s pretty tight, wound up and trapped in a corporation, and then finally frees himself and now helps others to free themselves. But let me first read your bio and people will get a good sense right away about you.
You are more than your job and your career is more than a shiny resume, much more. Anthony Kuo is a career satisfaction coach, and he wants to help you intentionally craft a career you’re excited to wake up for. Anthony graduated from the NYU Stern School of Business in 2010 and subsequently took an eight-year tour through the Fortune 500 world, rising up the corporate ladder before realizing he was filling his bank account but leaving his soul empty. Anthony integrates his practical experience with his training as a transformational NLP practitioner to gently and playfully guide his clients through one of life’s most omnipresent questions:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” You can learn more about Anthony and his work at, we’ll have this in the show notes, but it is untamedcareer.com.
Big breath, Anthony. Life, wow. Life that grabs you and says, “Hey, wake up fella.” But before it did that, let’s start with some of the early history and how you came into this world trying to figure out where you belonged. And I’m sure that family kind of sets the tone about what their expectations are.
(3:29) Anthony Kuo
It sure does. And I have to say that it’s really special to be able to come here and share this with you and anyone listening, because you’ve seen me through this journey, right? Like you’ve seen, you’ve known me for longer than I’ve had my life outside of the corporate world, so you’ve gotten to see me, as you said, like tightly wound up and starting to unfurl myself, uncertainly and awkwardly.
And it’s been a little bit of a while and so I think it’s really cool that you’re going to get to see how I’ve become.
(4:03) Doreen Downing
Yes. I think one of the things about who we are deeply, the shine inside, the jewel, the strength, I saw that. Early on when we started to know each other that, wow, this is a brilliant human being and he’s coming out. Yay.
(4:22) Anthony Kuo
(4:23) Doreen Downing
So welcome to the world, huh? So yes, let’s go back to stories about growing up.
(4:31) Anthony Kuo
Yes. So my family is an immigrant family. My mom was born in Taiwan and she came to school here. She went to first the Eastman School of Music and then Juilliard. And my dad was born in Beijing and he is a survivor of the Chinese cultural revolution in the sixties.
And members of his family were branded enemies of the state because his father was an engineer and his mother was an artist, so clearly people on the blacklist. And they were sent off to re-education camps, AKA labor camps, and he came to the US also to come to school. His education was delayed and he earned a scholarship to get his first degree at Eastman School of Music, which is where my parents met.
And back to my mom’s side, she was a piano prodigy. She grew up playing piano. She was performing at major symphony halls since she was 12, I think. Touring Hong Kong, London and then she had me. Yes. And that changed everything. She chose to give up her musical career to raise a family.
And so I think the stage is for me coming into the world. And I think about the decision that my mom made to have, to keep me and to stick around and raise me. And like she had dreams of going on tour and becoming a world-class like performer, and she put that to rest.
And what a loving act, and what a sacrifice, and also what a weight. That I didn’t know I was taking on, but of course subconsciously you feel it. And music, I come from a musical family. Both my parents went to the best music schools in the United States. They became world class, trained.
And music was a part of my life growing up. I was introduced to the piano for, yes, I think I was four or five.
(6:55) Doreen Downing
Oh, I think you must have been just already at the piano bench when you were in your mom’s belly.
(7:01) Anthony Kuo
Oh, sure. Exactly. Yes. My mom actually would put on headphones. We used to call ’em hi-fi. She would put headphones on her belly so that I would be exposed to Mozart and Beethoven in the womb. So the musical journey didn’t just begin when I sat down to play myself, but my mom carried me and was playing with me. And I learned to a high degree, and I learned to the point where I could myself perform at Carnegie Hall, and I did so when I was 15, and then again when I was 17.
(7:36) Doreen Downing
I didn’t know that. Good. More to know about you.
(7:43) Anthony Kuo
I don’t talk about it frequently, and I certainly don’t brag about it because it’s actually not a huge part of my identity. I don’t wear it as part of my sleeve. “Ooh, I’m a musician who is trained at Carnegie Hall.” You will notice that you did not introduce me as a musician, right? I’m doing something different.
And I think the part that was difficult for me growing up, that took a long time in adulthood to start to tease apart and understand for myself, and I think a major part of what we’re going to talk about today, is the fact that I personally did not really enjoy music.
Yes. So I grew up playing it to a very high degree, I had the best training in the world and I didn’t really want it for myself. Now, I didn’t know that I didn’t have the words for it when I was young. But I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t get the same. I was always confused when I saw my mom get this thrill out of playing. It was this relentless pursuit of art and perfection. And I remember writing an essay for college applications, and I had my language arts teacher edit it for me. And my thesis of the essay was basically this is a thing that I can do that I’m really skilled at and I don’t enjoy.
So imagine what I can do when I find something that I actually do enjoy. And my English teacher, God bless her, she with her green pen scribbled out, in addition to the grammatical corrections, had scribbled in the margin, but doesn’t the music make you soar?
And I remember reading that and my answer was, honestly, no. And that was the moment where I realized, oh my goodness I’m so done with this. I’ve been doing it just because, I’ve been doing it because my mom wants me to, I’ve been doing it because I think that’s what is going to get me a scholarship in college.
I’m pretty sure it did. So it certainly served a purpose in my life, but, you know what a difference between my mom who goes on stage at Carnegie to perform for the sake of creating art and creating music, and then me who goes on very utilitarian so that I can get a recording to submit.
(10:17) Doreen Downing
Yes, this is profound. Thank you for opening this up and pointing back to that moment in your life, where you were in that dilemma, and yet you still had to go on, you went to college and got a degree in something. What happened next?
(10:37) Anthony Kuo
Yes, so I got a degree. First, I thought I was going to get a degree in biology. I was very interested in Molecular Science. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and I still do. And then I took an internship at the NYU Medical School over the summer. And it did not go well, I did not enjoy it. I learned there’s a really big difference between learning the science of how DNA works and the molecules in our bodies and the act of actually developing that science.
It was a huge difference in my skill and honestly my style as a person compared to what the lab actually entailed. And so that was a rude awakening. And I was notorious for contaminating stocks. I was working in a lab that worked with e-coli and salmonella, so not stocks you want to contaminate or cross-contaminate.
And so I transitioned to the business school where I majored in marketing and finance and that was the beginning sort of, oh, this is actually something I want to do. This is where I had the seed of I want to be in business for myself. The reason why I chose that as opposed to some other liberal arts major was because I had this inkling, even when I was in the biology department, that I would one day want to open up shop for myself.
Originally, it was I would open a biotech firm of some kind, but I always knew I wanted that sense of autonomy, that sense of this is a kingdom that I get to build. And there was a bit of referencing to my father, because you know that question you read in my bio, what do you want to be when you grow up? I had put down, I want to be a businessman. I had no idea what that meant.
(12:36) Doreen Downing
Oh, wow. Oh wow. I was beginning to, as you’re starting to talk about this inner kind of vision that you carried at some level, I was thinking about how yes, your mother had her own kingdom. In a way, there was some kind of ownership of a space that was totally hers, and I can see how that relates to you imagining yourself in a space that’s yours.
(13:01) Anthony Kuo
Yes. Yes. It’s funny, when I first told my parents that I was going to leave the corporate world and start my own business my mom’s first question was, what about health insurance? Which is a very real consideration, the state of healthcare we’re not going to get into right now. But I remember being so annoyed at that question.
I was like, but don’t you get it? This is I’m following in your footsteps. Like my mom, when she’s not performing, she teaches piano. Very similar business model to what I’m doing. And I was like, I am literally doing what you are. Just change the subject matter, but I am following your footsteps here.
(13:38) Doreen Downing
Yes, I see that. Yes.
(13:40) Anthony Kuo
Yes. But I was also following my father’s footsteps because he also transitioned from music. His was precipitated by an injury to his diaphragm and his instrument was a trumpet and you need your diaphragm to be in good working order. But he had already been sitting with a lingering discontent with classical music in his telling in an orchestra, there’s a right way to play and a wrong way to play.
And you were actually quite penalized for playing the wrong note or playing at the wrong time. And so when he had this injury that was career ending because the doctor told him, “You need to stop playing for at least a year.” He transitioned into Computer Science and parlayed that into now he does IT work for the bank and in the financial and business world. And much of that happened before I was born and had grown up. And so I remember looking out the window of him, dressed up with his briefcase and waving goodbye, before getting in the car. And I was like, I’m going to be a businessman when I grow up.
(14:54) Doreen Downing
Okay, so here we are. Another wake up call. You’re into business and you’re in a corporate environment, and it feels like the same thing as the teacher who said, “Wow what’s really going on here?” helped you have that moment of realization and then while you were in that lab, another moment, life moment realization. And then you’re in the corporate world and you get another one.
(15:23) Anthony Kuo
Actually several. There’s several. It’s a never ending parade, Doreen. I actually tell this to my clients all the time who get frustrated with me sometimes, because I’m like, career satisfaction is not a single moment, it’s not a single job title.
It’s a consistent choice you make over and over again. And that comes from my own experience because, I didn’t just choose, oh, I’m going to be a businessman, and boom, that’s it. I reached for what I could reach for in the moment and it was wonderful. And then the honeymoon phase ends, and then I started to notice, I don’t really like this aspect of it, or I’m starting to get bored over here, or, this is really frustrating. And then, I start to have the feeling of I’m no longer satisfied here and I’m not happy with what’s happening. And so there’s a new reach. And that reach is different because I’m in a different space.
More is available to me. And so the first job I had was a wonderful place to work. I learned so much about business. I learned so much about working. I learned so much about being on teams. I learned so much about managing, and then as all things, when you climb the learning curve, you reach your plateau point and I was no longer intellectually satisfied.
And I was really fortunate to be on a team where my managers were both attentive and supportive. And when I finally approached her, laid it out on the table, I was like, I need to take a couple weeks off and I’m going to burn the rest of my vacation time and just go on a meditation journey to find what the hell it is that I want to do because I am so burnt out here.
And she looked across the table at me and was like, honestly, I’ve been waiting for you to tell me that. And so of course, go and enjoy and have whatever meaningful journey you’re going to have. When you come back, I’m going to set another meeting on our calendars and let’s discuss whether that fixed anything.
Because there’s a part of burnout that’s just short. You take a vacation and then there’s, but something’s not working and it’s not going to be good for any of us if you just come back and bang your head against the wall, take another two weeks sojourn, and then come back and do it all over again.
And when I did come back, she had a list for me “Okay, these are some internal transfers that are available. They’re looking for really talented people. I’m more than willing to support your bid for any of these.”
And I get emotional now just thinking about how important and how supportive that was, that she could see that I was dissatisfied, had some really strong hypotheses about what would make me more satisfied, and paved the way for me to make that transition. And then the same thing repeated itself a few more times throughout the corporate world where, you know I found people who supported me, who would lift me up. And my own journey was, this is amazing. This is so much better than the thing before. And then I would get into a stasis, and then I would get bored or really disgruntled about something else.
And it was always different like the first one was about intellectual stimulation. The second one was more about I wasn’t quite engaged in the right way on my team. And I was feeling a little bit unappreciated and undervalued and like my growth was being stymied. And then because of the relationship I had built with my client, he reached out to me and was like, “I have an opening on my team. Come work for me”. And I learned so much from him.
(19:29) Doreen Downing
What a journey. What I like about listening to this whole corporate, what this whole landscape that you’re talking about is that I thought we’d be talking about how horrible corporate was, and you finally wrestled your way out of it and found yourself, found your voice.
But it seems like what you’re telling us is that no matter what, even though you might find yourself in these kinds of moments of what might feel like traps or not enough stimulation. There’s still learning going on. And then there’s something else that you talked about, the reach, which then if you really pay attention there is something you can move from too.
And so I’m wrapping all of your corporate experience into that one idea that I hadn’t thought of that corporate could be seen as, yes, steps to something other than advancement at the top of the corporate ladder where it got you with something else.
So this moment of “I need to get out,” let’s talk about that. I want to move on to how you, I love this phrase, career satisfaction and what you’re saying about that, and I really want us to hear, so yes, you weren’t satisfied in certain ways for certain reasons, but you’ve definitely found a deeper satisfaction in being a career satisfaction coach.
(20:57) Anthony Kuo
I have. I have. In each of the little arcs that I’ve shared so far, there was a moment of “I got to get the hell out of here.” And something that I started to notice was the time it would take to reach that point got shorter and shorter. Initially, it was two and a half years, and then it became two years, and then it became one and a half years all the way until, like at the last place, I didn’t last more than a year. And part of that was because I was reaching the end of what I could optimize within corporate. And the way I’m telling the story, by the way, I have the benefit of hindsight and a lot of processing and a lot of doing my own work to get right with my journey.
In the moment it felt like this is the worst, this is horrible, I’m trapped, there’s no way out. The world is a terrible place. So I don’t want you to mistake the…
(21:45) Doreen Downing
The joy of learning.
(21:47) Anthony Kuo
Exactly. The joy of learning for the reality of my experience, because I did have a really hard time.
And towards the end of that really hard time, there were a few realizations that were like really bleak. One was that it didn’t matter what I optimized and what I made better in the corporate world, it just wasn’t going to satisfy the seed of “I need to work for myself.” I don’t care how much autonomy that I get, how much authority, how much of a program I get to own in the corporate world if I’m still answering to somebody else who gets to dictate whatever about me, that isn’t going to work for me. And the other thing that I started to realize was that the things I was optimizing for were all things that I didn’t really care that much about.
(22:40) Doreen Downing
There you go again. Yes. Bit clarifying and knowing in inner knowing of what felt right.
(22:47) Anthony Kuo So that last run I had to make a pretty drastic change because the little micro changes I was doing and they weren’t actually micro changes. They were like, I was changing jobs, I was changing careers. I was experimenting with all sorts of different configurations of how I could possibly be in this corporate space.
And I come to the end of my line there and it had taken over my life. All of my friends were from the office and I didn’t maintain a very good relationship with them. Aside from a purely professional one. I was no fun to hang out with. And there was a really scary moment when I realized that just quitting my job wouldn’t fix the problem.
It would open up a vacuum, which while I desperately wanted the space, it terrified me because I didn’t really have very much to fill it with just yet. I was single at the time and my social life was shattered, and so it was this terrifying moment of I don’t want to be here, but the alternative seems pretty scary and bleak as well.
And the discomfort of sitting in that, which I had to sit in for quite some time, forced me to start taking seriously the idea of, okay, if I’m going to get out of here, if I’m going to start building a business, I need to know what the business is. And in the meantime, I was helping out friends with their resumes and just giving solid career advice and helping friends and colleagues advance themselves. And I was like, I really enjoy doing this, and they’re referring me to their friends, and I bet I could start charging for this. And then I went through all sorts of, I went from that cycle of reach, stasis, and then this isn’t quite doing it for me. I had to go through that in such rapid fire once I finally opened up my own shop and quit my job to do it full-time. It was surprising to me. I imagined that it would be a orgy of, oh my God, this is the most amazing thing in the world. And happily ever after, right?
(25:20) Doreen Downing
Yes. Your own business, as you said earlier, your own kingdom. Empire.
(25:25) Anthony Kuo
It was wonderful. And it was also, I didn’t know what I was doing and I had to learn how to self-regulate. I had to learn how to call my own shots because up until that point, there was always somebody telling me what to do.
Before it was my parents, and then it was my teachers, and then it was my bosses. And for the first time, I had to figure out what do I want to do?
(25:46) Doreen Downing
Coming back to finding your voice. I’m getting that in your head, there were a lot of voices growing up. And it seemed like your voice was underneath and always present, and it would lead you but to actually actualize you might say your truth, your inner truth. It took a while to really open up, dive down deep and listen to that voice.
(26:12) Anthony Kuo
Yes. The listening, I think was the hard part for me. Recognizing that I had a voice to begin with because the other voices around me were pretty strong. And I also can very clearly recognize this as an adult that they were also filled with such love and good intentions. That’s part of what made it easy to listen to them. Even if they were directing me to do things that I didn’t really want to do, and the extent of my voice at the time was just sort of discomfort. It got squashed.
(26:53) Doreen Downing
However, if we move forward though, you have obviously heard the calling and you’ve stepped into it, and tell us more about actually what you are doing in the career satisfaction. Because I think what we’ve got now is how much we can trust you. Trust you that you know what it’s like to not be happy. You know what it’s like to feel trapped.
You know what it’s like to have emptiness? What the heck, if I don’t do this, what can I do? And you do way more than just helping somebody with a resume, that isn’t what your business is about. So let’s talk a little bit about your business.
(27:42) Anthony Kuo
Thank you for asking. The first thing I do is I meet people where they are. And as you’ve so eloquently put it, I have it within myself to meet them. Whether it’s stuck or frustrated or just plain lost, it is to first meet them. And then I lead people through what I’ve come to call the fulfilling career path. It’s a process that I’ve developed to lead people from that place of, “I don’t know what I’m going to do next” to having a clear idea of what they want and how they’re going to get there.
And so it goes through three phases. The first one is quite simply know thyself. And I imagine you would appreciate this given what you do and the root of any of this work to work and be effective and to be sustaining is to get to know yourself. The way I do that is I help people develop an understanding of what it takes for them to thrive, to have the inner sensation of flow of joy, of fulfillment. Often people think it’s “Oh, I need to be remote and I need to work no more than 50 hours a week and have this many vacation days” which are all fine and important, but it’s really more about engaging your interests as opposed to your skills. And being in an environment where your personal style is being not only met, but also appreciated and valued.
Like the working metaphor that I use is that of a care card. You see the plants behind me. I like plants. When you go to the Home Depot and pick up a little basil and it’s saying “water me with this much water this often and put me in this much sunlight.” It’s a simple recipe.
And what if we as human beings with dreams and aspirations and hopes had something like that for ourselves so that we could not only take action towards meeting that care card, but also to evaluate opportunities and situations through that lens so that, when you understand this about yourself, the first thing I have people do, before they even look at job opportunities is to look at what they’re currently experiencing and say, “Oh my goodness, this is what is driving me up the wall.”
And “Oh my goodness, this is what is being met. Otherwise, I would’ve left already.” A really interesting feature of the work I do with people is that we exist in this like spectrum. Nothing is ever black and white, right? Because if it was all good, we wouldn’t be talking. If it was all bad, you wouldn’t still be in the job and feeling stuck, right?
So I think a big part of my job, especially in that first phase, is to help people figure out where on the spectrum do you live? And appreciate the curiosity and the self-knowledge that helps us understand what is creating the reach and what is also needing to come along with us. And then based on that information and that self knowledge, then we can get curious about, “Okay, where are you going to meet that?”
So the first stage is know thyself. The second stage is set your destination. This is, this can be as close in as, “Oh yes, I’ll just have a talk with my manager. We’ll change how they treat me and if they’re amenable to that, great.” Or it could be as far out as “I have to completely change what I’m doing and it’s going to be a multiple year journey and I have to start laying the foundation now.”
And that brings me to the third phase, which is, make it a reality. So based on your destination, and there are a few things we do to vet out that it actually is something that you want and it is the reality that matches your fantasy of it. And then we go to making it a reality, which is where people often start with resumes and interviews and all of that, but it’s actually the last step.
Because once you’re able to root it in yourself and you’re able to root it in, this is how I would like to present myself in the world, then the resume comes easily. Then it’s just a format to contain and communicate yourself rather than this head scratching, what the hell did I say?
What did I do in this job anyway? Sure we can create the most technically perfect bullet point to put on a resume, and I do have that skill. But to what end? Why? The reason why at the end of the process is because it’s not relevant until you address those first points.
(32:38) Doreen Downing
I love the idea of it being a journey that you’ve got a place where you start and then you talk about your destination. You don’t actually figure out where you want to go first. You have to figure out where you are, and I love that idea of a care card. That’s what’s something I think our listeners will be taking with us today. We’re coming close to the end here, so I want to make sure we’ve got the process that you’ve also personally gone through.
How come you’ve designed this career, satisfaction business? And what somebody can get out of it. And it’s not just, “Hey, he’s going to help me get a new job.” No, he’s going to help you get to know who you truly are so you can be more aligned with yourself as you move forward into whatever’s next. But it’s more of an expression of who you are, I feel is what you’re helping people come to realize, which goes along with, and that’s why we’re friends. Around what I do is help people find who they are, discover, that’s what find your voice is so in a way you’re helping people find their voice too. Your voice comes from who you truly are. And if you are being who you truly are, then your voice leads you and you could speak it.
And whether it’s showing up at the manager or whether it’s going out for interviews or whether it’s completely pivoting so, Anthony, we’re wrapping up. And is there some way in which you can communicate to us, what it is that you really want to leave us with today?
(34:19) Anthony Kuo
You just said a really important word, which is expression. That is the crux of what I do. Career satisfaction comes from being able to express who we are. And career dissatisfaction comes from feeling like you have to force yourself as a square peg into a round hole. So if I leave only one thing behind in this episode, it’s to just consider what it’s like to express who you are.
And maybe make an evaluation about it, where you are in your work or in your career, or honestly anywhere. Are you in a place where you can express yourself? Are you in a place where that feels natural and like it can be received? And then of course, if you’re in the first prerequisite part of it, are you expressing yourself at all?
Do you need help finding your voice? Doreen’s got a really wonderful program for that. Thank you. But it’s all about expressing who you are.
(35:31) Doreen Downing
Yes. I love listening to you and I love watching you, listening to you being with you as you express yourself and how you’ve been able to, in your own life, come to those moments where you really have to listen or else. So thank you so much, Anthony.
(35:54) Anthony Kuo
Thank you. Doreen. What a privilege.
(35:57) Doreen Downing
Also listen on…
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.